Tre Jones finds a wide-open Cam Reddish on the inbounds pass, and Reddish nails the game-winning 3. (0:44)
What a bizarre week for North Carolina. Just four days after winning impressively at NC State and looking like a sneaky player in the ACC race, the Tar Heels were absolutely blitzed 83-62 by Louisville in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
It was North Carolina’s worst home loss since 2002, when the Tar Heels were dropped by No. 1 Duke. But this Louisville team, a likely NCAA tournament team that already has beaten Michigan State, is not No. 1 Duke. The Cardinals had just lost at Pittsburgh.
But Louisville did the two things that Carolina has had difficulty overcoming in the past: It kept the Tar Heels off the offensive glass and kept them out of transition. North Carolina had just four fast-break points. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Tar Heels were averaging nearly 25 points per game in transition. The box score will show Carolina had 13 offensive rebounds, but five or six of those came in the last five minutes, when the game was already far out of reach. The Tar Heels were outscored in the paint.
As a result, North Carolina had to rely on its half-court and perimeter shooting — the latter rarely a staple of a Roy Williams-coached team. The Tar Heels shot 3-for-22 from 3-point range.
There will be games this season when North Carolina looks like a team that can make a deep run in March — and given the top of the Tar Heels’ roster, they certainly can — but there also will be games like this loss, in which they have no counter after their strengths are snatched away.
This week, it just happened in the span of four days.
1. Duke Blue Devils (14-1)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Wake Forest 87-65 on Tuesday, beat Florida State 80-78 on Saturday
Duke: Welcome to the show, Cam Reddish. With Zion Williamson forced to the bench for the entire second half after getting poked in the eye, Reddish stepped up with 16 points after halftime — including the wide-open, game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. RJ Barrett also had one of his more efficient outings, going for 32 points and four 3-pointers.
2. Michigan Wolverines (16-0)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Illinois 79-69 on Thursday, vs. Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET Sunday on BTN)
Michigan generally doesn’t count on Zavier Simpson for a ton of scoring production on the offensive end, but the elite defensive point guard has shown the past couple of games that he can get buckets if needed. After scoring 12 points against Indiana over the weekend, Simpson finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists in Thursday’s win.
3. Tennessee Volunteers (14-1)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Missouri 87-63 on Tuesday, beat Florida 78-67 on Saturday
Grant Williams and the Vols were Gator-chomping in Gainesville for the first time since February 2012 on Saturday night, and Rick Barnes’ team continues to state its case as a potential national championship contender. In addition to the usual production from Williams and Admiral Schofield, Barnes is starting to get consistent performances from Jordan Bowden. The junior guard tallied 20 points in each of his last two games, then went for 17 on Saturday.
4. Virginia Cavaliers (15-0)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Boston College 83-56 on Wednesday, beat Clemson 63-43 on Saturday
Virginia struggled to get going on Saturday, but Clemson made only one shot from the field through the first 13-plus minutes and the Tigers never led. Coming up for Tony Bennett’s team is a massive statement week: home vs. Virginia Tech and at Duke. We’ll know by the end of next weekend the true pecking order of the ACC.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-2)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Pacific 67-36 on Thursday, beat San Francisco 96-83 on Saturday
In arguably Gonzaga’s toughest game until March, the Bulldogs dominated San Francisco in the final couple of minutes to remain unbeaten in the WCC. A 13-point margin it was not. But we’ve talked throughout the non-conference schedule about how much the return of Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall would help, and on Saturday, Tillie went for 14 points, six rebounds and three assists before fouling out, and Crandall hit a clutch 3 and also played significant minutes late to take the pressure off Josh Perkins.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-1)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Oklahoma 66-59 on Tuesday, beat Texas 68-62 on Saturday
Another second-half turnaround for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders outscored Texas by 10 after halftime, but this time, it was the offense that carried them to a win. Matt Mooney had 22 points, and Tech shot 53.8 percent in the second half. Interestingly, Saturday was Tech’s worst defensive performance of the season, as the Longhorns scored 0.97 points per possession — the most an opponent has put up against Tech so far.
7. Michigan State Spartans (14-2)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Purdue 77-59 on Tuesday, at Penn State (4:30 p.m. ET Sunday)
Michigan State still hasn’t missed a beat while Joshua Langford is sidelined, as the Spartans handled Purdue with relative ease on Tuesday. Cassius Winston won the guard battle with Carsen Edwards, as Winston finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and Edwards had 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting. The Spartans are rolling right now.
8. Kansas Jayhawks (14-2)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat TCU 77-68 on Wednesday, beat Baylor 73-68 on Saturday
Kansas didn’t make a shot for the final 6:28 on Saturday, but the Jayhawks still hung on. And it appears freshman Ochai Agbaji‘s performance in his debut on Wednesday was not a one-off outing. Agbaji, who burned his redshirt earlier this week, was once again the key man off the bench for Bill Self. He finished with 10 points and three rebounds, and he enables Self to play a variety of lineups with Udoka Azubuike out the rest of the season.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies (14-1)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Georgia Tech 52-49 on Wednesday
We had a feeling the Hokies might be caught looking ahead just a little bit this week, as Virginia looms next week. But they survived Georgia Tech on Wednesday, holding the Yellow Jackets without a basket for the final three-plus minutes to escape. It was a really impressive defensive performance, and it helped Buzz Williams’ team overcome its worst offensive effort of the season by far.
10. Nevada Wolf Pack (16-1)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat San Jose State 92-53 on Wednesday, beat Fresno State 74-64 on Saturday
After getting blitzed in their first Mountain West road game last weekend, the Wolf Pack bounced back in their toughest road trip until March. After using his bench far more often last game, Eric Musselman went back to mostly a six-man rotation. Caleb Martin has rebounded from two subpar outings with 50 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and 10 3-pointers in his past two games.
11. Florida State Seminoles (13-3)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Miami 68-62 on Wednesday, lost to Duke 80-78 on Saturday
What a heartbreaking loss for Florida State. The Seminoles were two seconds from knocking off No. 1 Duke in Tallahassee, but they left Cam Reddish wide open on the wing for a game-winning 3-pointer. Florida State refused to get punked by Duke and actually outscored the Blue Devils in the paint, but Duke had Reddish and RJ Barrett — and the Seminoles didn’t. On the plus side, Phil Cofer had his best game since returning from injury (21 points, seven rebounds), a positive sign moving forward.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels (12-4)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat NC State 90-82 on Tuesday, lost at Louisville 83-62 on Saturday
Entering the weekend, it looked like the Tar Heels were set for a little run, given their upcoming schedule. Now things look more daunting: There’s Miami on the road next weekend, followed by a visit from Virginia Tech two days later — followed by back-to-back road games. Will we have a better handle on Carolina by the end of this stretch?
13. NC State Wolfpack (14-2)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost to North Carolina 90-82 on Tuesday, beat Pittsburgh 86-80 on Saturday
The Wolfpack bounced back by holding serve at home against Pittsburgh, with big performances off the bench from DJ Funderburk (18 points), Devon Daniels (19 points) and Eric Lockett (17 points). However, there was a scary-looking incident in the first half, when Markell Johnson landed hard on his tailbone after going for a block. He didn’t return and Kevin Keatts didn’t provide an update in his postgame news conference.
14. Kentucky Wildcats (12-3)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Texas A&M 85-74 on Tuesday, beat Vanderbilt 56-47 on Saturday
Ashton Hagans was on his way to making a claim as the best point guard in the 2019 class before reclassifying and enrolling at Kentucky. Seven months later, he has arguably been the catalyst for the Wildcats’ improvement of late. He has now scored in double figures in four straight games while dishing out 18 assists and racking up 14 steals during that span.
15. Buffalo Bulls (15-1)
Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Toledo 110-80 on Tuesday, beat Miami (Ohio) 88-64 on Saturday
Nate Oats’ team has bounced back from its lone loss of the season right before Christmas, with three straight wins, including Tuesday’s 30-point blowout over Toledo. The Rockets were expected to be one of the teams to push Buffalo in the MAC, but that does not appear to be the case. The at-large hopes for the Bulls are still very much alive.
16. Houston Cougars (16-1)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to Temple 73-69 on Wednesday, beat Wichita State 79-70 on Saturday
Houston bounced back from its first loss of the season with a win over Wichita State on Saturday, but the Cougars once again allowed more than one point per possession for the third straight game — after not letting an opponent hit that threshold since Nov. 24. That will be tested again this week, as Houston travels to face both SMU, which has won nine of its past 11, and South Florida, whose four losses are by a combined 11 points.
Dropped out: Auburn (No. 12)